Synopsis: Heading into the 2018 NBA Draft, the prohibitive favorite as the #1 pick is Arizona’s Deandre Ayton. From there, the likely #2 to #4 picks are Duke’s Marvin Bagley, Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson and international phenom Luka Doncic, respectively. Despite any excitement surrounding these players, the free agency of LeBron James and trade request by Kawhi Leonard will dominate fan interest going into the 2018-19 NBA season. This year’s draft lacks a guaranteed superstar so each and every team should be willing to use their picks to get into the James/Leonard sweepstakes. I don’t have the foresight to predict all of the possible iterations so I’ll simply offer my 2018 NBA Mock Draft based on the current draft position of each team.
2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT
Coming into work this morning, I listened to ESPN’s Trey Wingo comment about the huge gap between fan interest in the NFL and NBA drafts. Specifically, he mentioned that the NFL draft dominates sports talk for a few months whereas the NBA draft becomes a topic of conversation for only a few days. To be fair, Wingo hosts ESPN’s coverage of the NFL draft so he certainly has a bias. Still, his observation was spot on.
Using a scale of 1-10, I contend that interest in the draft registers an 8 for the NFL and a 6 for the NBA. For MLB or the NHL, interest might [and I heavily emphasize might] reach a 2. Of note, I’m using a logarithmic measurement similar to the Richter scale such that an 8 [the interest level for the NFL] is 100x greater than a 6 [the interest level for the NBA] and 1,000,000x greater than a 2 [the interest level for either of the other two sports].
Without digressing too much further, I also contend that the difference in these measurements directly correlates to the following traits.
- Television ratings for college football dominate ratings for college basketball, which in turn dominate ratings for college baseball.
- The average fan is much more likely to have heard about and/or seen the top football players in actual games.
- A good NFL draft can change a team’s fortunes within 1-2 years, whereas it takes much longer in the other sports.
- “The Process” of tanking to get high draft picks has only started to bear fruit for the Philadelphia 76ers after four consecutive years with top 3 overall picks.
- The NFL draft is 7 rounds with potential Hall of Famers in each and every round.
- NFL G.O.A.T. Tom Brady famously went in the 6th round of the 2000 NFL Draft.
- The NBA draft is 2 rounds with potential superstars heavily concentrated in the top 10 overall picks.
- Each NBA draft results in 2-3 eventual Hall of Famers, but rarely is the player taken outside of the lottery.
- The MLB draft is 40 rounds with potential superstars sprinkled throughout.
- There are too many busts at the top of the draft to be create a buzz.
- Hence, why you haven’t (and will never see) a Top 10 Busts ranking for the MLB Draft.
- A T10B ranking for MLB free agent busts will be a different story because the pool of candidates is much more manageable.
- The NFL draft occurs three months after the conclusion of the NFL season.
- There’s sufficient time to spark fan interest and to offer multiple versions of mock drafts from the “experts.”
- The NBA and NHL drafts occur within two weeks of the crowning of their respective league champions.
- The MLB draft occurs during the season.
- As an offset, it means that top prospects can be in “The Show” within weeks of getting picked.
In my recent 2018 Mock NFL Draft, I correctly predicted 8 of the top 10 overall picks (not necessarily in order though). With respect to the players I missed, Minkah Fitzpatrick went 11th instead of 7th and Tremain Edmunds went 16th instead of 9th. If I can say so myself, I did a commendable job considering that evaluating draft picks is a hobby for me.
In comparison, I correctly predicted 9 of the top 10 overall picks as part of my 2017 Mock NBA Draft. With respect to that draft, I slipped a wildcard in the 10th spot because I thought Wake Forest’s John Collins would be a better pick/player than Gonzaga’s Zach Collins. If I had stuck to what I thought would happen versus what should happen, I would have gone 10 for 10. Perhaps needless to say, I won’t make the same mistake this year. By sticking to the numbers, I’m aiming to get not only the top 10 overall picks correct (in any order), but also all of the lottery picks (i.e. the top 14 picks).
Without further ado, here are my picks.
2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT: TOP 10 PICKS
|1||Phoenix Suns||Deandre Ayton||C||Arizona||19||7’0″||260|
|2||Sacramento Kings||Marvin Bagley III||PF||Duke||19||6’11”||235|
|3||Atlanta Hawks||Jaren Jackson Jr.||PF||Michigan State||18||6’10”||235|
|4||Memphis Grizzles||Luka Doncic||SG||N/A||19||6’8″||220|
|5||Dallas Mavericks||Michael Porter Jr.||SF||Missouri||19||6’10”||211|
|6||Orlando Magic||Mohamed Bamba||C||Texas||19||6’11”||226|
|7||Chicago Bulls||Trae Young||PG||Oklahoma||19||6’1″||178|
|8||Cleveland Cavaliers||Wendell Carter||PF||Duke||19||6’9″||251|
|9||New York Knicks||Mikal Bridges||SF||Villanova||21||6’7″||210|
|10||Philadelphia 76ers||Collin Sexton||PG||Alabama||19||6’1″||183|
2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT: EXTERNAL RANKINGS
|Mock Pick||Player||Avg. Rank||Bleacher Report||CBS Sports||Hoops Hype||NBA Draft. net||Sporting News||Sports Illustr.||USA Today||ESPN|
As the table shows, I simply used the average ranking of the “experts” when determining the order my 2018 Mock NBA Draft. Jaren Jackson and Luka Doncic actually tied for third based on average ranking so I had to use some judgment. Despite my arguably simplistic approach, I believe my mock draft won’t differ too much from the actual draft.
2018 MOCK NBA DRAFT – COMMENTS
- Phoenix Suns – Taking a chapter out of NFL draft expert Mel Kiper Jr’s book, I’ll retire if the Suns don’t take Deandre Ayton with the first overall pick. As an athletic big man who can stretch the floor, Ayton deserves to go #1.
- Sacramento Kings – Given that Marvin Bagley seems to be the only top pick willing to play for the Kings, he’s the odds-on favorite to go #2. Unfortunately, the chip on his shoulder for going 2nd overall may not do him any good playing in the NBA’s purgatory.
- Atlanta Hawks – The Hawks have been hinting that they “really like” Luka Doncic. Is it possible that they made the statement specifically to entice the Mavericks to trade up to the 3rd spot? Sure. Are the Mavs likely to bite? I’m guessing not, so I predict the Hawks take Jaren Jackson instead.
- Memphis Grizzles – On the cusp of greatness a few years ago, the Grizzles have fallen on hard times. Doncic should help turn around the franchise’s misfortune assuming the Mavericks don’t jump in and steal the pick. If so, Memphis will have to “settle” for Jackson.
- Dallas Mavericks – Assuming the top four picks go according to my mock draft, the Mavericks will choose between small forward Michael Porter Jr. and center Mo Bamba. Despite any injury concerns about Porter, Mark Cuban won’t be able to pass on the player arguably with the most raw talent in the draft.
- Orlando Magic – If Dallas beats Orlando to the punch by taking Porter, the Magic will take “The Albatross” instead. With an NBA draft record 7’10” wingspan, Bamba reflects Jay Bilas’s ideal draft prospect.
- Chicago Bulls – Trae Young has drawn comparisons to 2009 #7 overall pick Steph Curry so it seems serendipitous that the Bulls take Young with their pick. I’ll save my assessment of Young for another post, but it’s highly unlike that Young will be worthy of that comparison. Remember Jimmer?
- Cleveland Cavaliers – Relative to all teams with a top 10 pick, the Cavs may be the most likely to entertain trade talks. Specifically, they make decide to use the pick in an attempt to convince LeBron to stay in Cleveland. Either way, Wendall Carter is too good to slip past the 8th spot in the draft.
- New York Knicks – The Knickerbockers need a true small forward and Villanova’s Mikal Bridges fits the bill. As a two-time NCAA champion, Bridges also offers intangibles to punctuate the end of the Phil Jackson experiment.
- Philadelphia 76ers – By taking Collin Sexton, the Sixers would add another competent ball handler to play alongside Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons. Let “The Process” continue!
REMAINING LOTTERY PICKS
The following table highlights the players most likely to ruin my top 10 mock draft picks.
2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT: PICKS 11-14
|11||Charlotte Hornets||Miles Bridges||SF||Michigan State||20||6’7″||220|
|12||Los Angeles Clippers||Kevin Knox||SF||Kentucky||18||6’8″||213|
|13||Los Angeles Clippers||Lonnie Walker IV||SG||Miami||19||6’5″||195|
|14||Denver Nuggets||Shai Gilgeous-Alexander||PG||Kentucky||19||6’6″||180|
2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT: PICKS 11-14 (EXTERNAL RANKINGS)
|Mock Pick||Player||Avg. Rank||Bleacher Report||CBS Sports||Hoops Hype||NBA Draft.net||Sporting News||Sports Illustr.||USA Today||ESPN|
|13||Lonnie Walker IV||13||15||15||15||15||10||10||12||13|
Based on the external rankings, the most likely candidate to spoil the party is Kentucky’s Kevin Knox. Given Kentucky coach John Calipari’s ability to recruit and develop future NBA stars, I wouldn’t fault any team with a 7-10 pick that “reaches” by taking Knox. If he jumps into the top 10, the most likely player to fall would/should be Trae Young.
2018 MOCK NBA DRAFT – CONCLUSION
As previously mentioned, I accurately predicted 13 of the top 14 overall picks last year. I missed by moving 2017 #19 overall pick John Collins into my top 10. Given Collins’s averages of 10.5 points and 7.3 rebounds per game as a rookie, I’ll accept my “mistake.” Then again, I’m trying to predict which players will be taken instead of which ones should be taken.
At this point, we’re less than 24 hours away from the 2018 NBA Draft. Unfortunately, ESPN removed Lisa Salters from its draft coverage last year. I’m upset because she never failed to deliver excitement by asking the most inappropriate questions. I can only hope that the “worldwide leader in sports” gives the viewers what they want. I won’t hold my breath because the network recently has failed with socially conscious programming like SC6 starring Michael Smith and Jemele Hill and unwatchable programming like Get Up!
Coming full circle, Mike Greenberg’s departure from Mike and Mike for Get Up! resulted in the creation of Golic and Wingo. I still watch and listen to the “other Mike” and Trey Wingo because they speak to the average sports fan. Lisa Salters was a train wreck waiting to happen with every interview she conducted. As an average sports fan, however, I had a prurient interest watching that particular wreck.
There are a lot of people waiting anxiously for the draft tomorrow night. While many other them care about the picks, I’m waiting anxiously for the return of Lisa Salters to make everything seem right. If not, I’ll still have a draft to evaluate for future busts.
After posting the above article, my son created his own mock draft of lottery picks. With minutes to go before the 2018 NBA draft begins, there’s still time to lock in his predictions.
2018 MOCK NBA DRAFT B: LOTTERY PICKS
|1||Phoenix Suns||Luka Doncic||SG||N/A||19||6’8″||220|
|2||Sacramento Kings||Deandre Ayton||C||Arizona||19||7’0″||260|
|3||Atlanta Hawks||Marvin Bagley III||PF||Duke||19||6’11”||235|
|4||Memphis Grizzles||Michael Porter Jr.||SF||Missouri||19||6’10”||211|
|5||Dallas Mavericks||Mohamed Bamba||C||Texas||19||6’11”||226|
|6||Orlando Magic||Collin Sexton||PG||Alabama||19||6’1″||183|
|7*||Chicago Bulls||Jaren Jackson Jr.||PF||Michigan State||18||6’10”||235|
|8||Cleveland Cavaliers||Trae Young||PG||Oklahoma||19||6’1″||178|
|9||New York Knicks||Shai Gilgeous-Alexander||PG||Kentucky||19||6’6″||180|
|10||Philadelphia 76ers||Wendell Carter||PF||Duke||19||6’9″||251|
|11||Charlotte Hornets||Mikal Bridges||SF||Villanova||21||6’7″||210|
|12*||Los Angeles Clippers||Miles Bridges||SF||Michigan State||20||6’7″||220|
|13||Los Angeles Clippers||Kevin Knox||SF||Kentucky||18||6’8″||213|
|14||Denver Nuggets||Robert Williams||C||Texas A&M||20||6’9″||240|
* Predicted swap of draft picks between the Chicago Bulls at #7 and L.A. Clippers at #12.
2018 MOCK NBA DRAFT B: EXTERNAL RANKINGS
|Mock Pick||Player||Avg Rank||Bleacher Report||CBS Sports||Hoops Hype||NBA Draft. net||Sporting News||Sports Illustr.||USA Today||ESPN|
|3||Marvin Bagley III||2||2||2||2||2||3||2||3||2|
|4||Michael Porter Jr.||5||6||4||8||8||5||5||2||7|
|7||Jaren Jackson Jr.||3T||3||5||4||4||4||3||5||3|
The gauntlet has been thrown. Let the draft begin!